James Crews





I'm up again because I have dreamed

my father alive, rustling rubber sheets

to get my attention and lying there

in the spare room as he did at the end

surrounded by the stares of mounted

game—elk, deer and bobcat hung

on the walls around the foldout couch.


But he was young and thin in my dream,

the tattoos that shamed him flashing on

sculpted biceps, his hair that had turned

white too soon gone back to brown.

And as usual in the dream, he refused

to speak to me, his mouth moving,

teeth gnashing some phantom-sound

that would not come out as words.


In this sleepless house is the ticking

sound I call settling to steady my mind.

The dark outside is taking its time

lifting its stain from the skin of snow

by slow degrees. Do I call him forth

out of ether? Ask him why he can't

talk back? I fill another kettle, place it

on the flames. And listen. And wait. 


James Crews' work has appeared in Ploughshares, Raleigh Review, Crab Orchard Review and The New Republic, among other journals, and he is a regular contributor to The (London) Times Literary Supplement. His first collection of poetry, The Book of What Stays, won the 2010 Prairie Schooner Book Prize and received a Foreword Magazine Book of the Year Award. He lives on an organic farm with his partner in Shaftsbury, Vermont and teaches in the low-residency MFA program at Eastern Oregon University.